Just how foundational metaphor is to cultural understanding has been a matter of considerable debate, manifested in the question of whether cultural models are, at bottom, based on conceptual metaphors (Gibbs 1994; Lakoff 1993; Lakoff and Johnson 1999; Quinn 1991). This paper revisits this debate by examining a new set of metaphorical expressions involving proper names, which are widespread in Singapore society. These expressions indicate that Singaporeans tend to describe local entities in terms of American ones, thus reflecting what might be called a cultural model of modernity. The paper shows that no conceptual metaphor can be plausibly said to ground this model. It then goes on to develop the other possibility: that the model is non-metaphorical and that the expressions are chosen because of their fit with the modernity model.